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Logging Operations – Looking Back

by Brownie Gibson, from Green Branches and Fallen Leaves

The most colourful facet of the whole timber industry at Shawnigan involved the logging operations, from the old oxen days when the logs were comparatively close at hand, to the boom years of the mill when sturdy steam locomotives brought trains of logs from many miles back in the hills to the log dump across the lake. There are those in the village of the 1960’s who can look back across the years, past the logging trucks of this day, to the 1930’s, and see across the lake at night the lights of a logging locomotive switch-backing down the mountain with its serpentine of logs, and hear the plaintive steam whistle of the locie, echoing from the hills.


The same old-timers can remember splash across the lake, and seconds later hearing the roar, as the cars of logs were tipped into the lake at the log dump, which was situated near where the George Pringle Camp now stands, the logs were boomed for their trip across the lake to the mill behind the Company’s steam tug, Lady of the Lake.


Whenever it is mentioned that a steam tug once operated on the lake, those who know in part say, “Ah yes, the Lady of the Lake.” Actually, the Lady of the Lake was the second of three steam tugs which have plied the lake in the pursuit of logging. The first tug sank in deep water off the mouth of the West Arm in the early 1900’s. The second, or the true Lady of the Lake, plied for a good many years, transporting mail and supplies to the loggers down the lake as well as towing log booms, until it was replaced by the third and last tug, the S.S. Shawnigan. After most of its machinery had been salvaged for the new boat, the faithful Lady of the Lake was beached just below the mill boathouse.


The S.S. Shawnigan, of 40 by 10 foot beam, was built on the lake by Tom Jones Boat Builders, Victoria. It was powered by a water tube boiler which burned planer wood and sometimes other wood. The boiler was made by a Vancouver marine firm and the engine by Albion Iron Works, Victoria. The pattern frames for the boat were still hanging under the mill when it burned. The S.S. Shawnigan died at its post, burning at its mooring during the fire of 1934. It was never replaced, as logs were brought in by truck during the next era.

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